Lake Erie continues to impress

News from the Ohio Division of Wildlife last week confirmed the 10.15-pound smallmouth bass caught in Lake Erie by an Ohio fisherman in November was a 16-year-old female and likely the largest bass ever reeled from the lake.

Erie continues to impress with super catches of walleyes, smallies and steelhead trout. Few can argue that for the small investment in a fishing license, Ohio anglers now have access to some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world.

When the weather is right, anglers who know what they are doing can count on unparalleled excitement and angling satisfaction during an era when so many pine for a return to the “good old days” in so many aspects of their lives.

For anglers, the best of times for fishing are here and now.

The 10.15-pound bass busted by Gregg Gallagher of Fremont came from Ontario waters after he and his son crossed the border from Ohio Nov. 3. They returned to Port Clinton with the massive fish and weighed it on a certified scale.

Gallagher’s catch was the crème de la crème for Erie smallmouth fishing in 2022. Throughout the season, anglers battled big bronzebacks from the mouth of the Detroit River to the Bass Islands to the waterfront of Cleveland, Erie and Buffalo.

While the 10-plus-pounder was hauled up from Canadian waters, the Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York waters are equally capable of producing huge smallies for anglers bouncing Ned rigs, tube jigs and drop-shot rigs. I would not be surprised if another smallie pushing 10 pounds is caught in Erie this year.

Setting the hook on a bass fattened by the abundant gobies, crawfish, perch and shiners never gets old. In my experience, nothing compares to the moment when the hook ignites the fight of a 4- or 5-pound smallmouth bass and the battle goes from submarine to aerial.

The new Erie record fish surpasses the 9.84-pounder caught in 1984. Ohio’s current record smallie is a 9.5-pound fish caught from Lake Erie. Biologists routinely survey Erie’s bass population and have found no fish equaling Gallagher’s catch – though fish measuring 20 inches and weighing seven pounds do show up in the surveys.

The fact that Erie continues to get better and better is a credit to regulations that have led to tremendous improvement in water quality over the past 40 years and to the excellent fish management practices and cooperation by authorities in Ohio, Michigan, New York and Ontario.

Walleye management is a prime example of the value that can be gained when fisheries managers share data and best practices and agree on harvest quotas and more.

Whether Youngstown-Warren anglers enjoy casting nightcrawler-and-spinner rigs or trolling crankbaits and spoons, they can find great Erie walleye fishing just one or two hours from home.

Steelhead fans can book an expensive expedition to the great rivers of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Or they can invest in a tank of gasoline, hop on Ohio 11 and motor up to the Ashtabula or Grand rivers or Conneaut Creek.

Ohio’s Erie tributaries offer ready access to 8- to 10-pound steelhead from mid-September through the winter into early April. During summer months, anglers find big steelies feasting around the massive baitfish schools out over Erie’s cool depths.

If you haven’t fished Lake Erie in a while, it would be wise to put it on your to-do list for 2023.

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” is an immersive look at why anglers are passionate about fishing. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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